Election 2008

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David Smith/AP

America Not Ready to Vote, Says Survey

October 16, 2008 01:35 PM
by Josh Katz
As a highly anticipated Election Day nears, many polling places won’t be able to cope with voting machine breakdowns and other potential problems.

Many States Unprepared for Election Day Problems

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The Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and Verified Voting have released a 190-page report that concludes that “Most states have not adopted laws and procedures that would allow them to effectively address all of the most common election system meltdowns.”

Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008,” analyzed the performance of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on a five-score scale ranging from “inadequate” to “excellent.” The states were judged on “polling place contingency plans,” “ballot reconciliation,” “paper records,” and “post election audits.”

This year’s tight election races could heighten voting difficulties for a number of states, in addition to the usual suspects of Florida and Ohio, according to Politico. Some experts warn that Colorado, Virginia and Georgia may become possible trouble spots on Election Day. Even though federal and state governments have taken steps since the controversial election of 2000 to prevent a similar occurrence, county election boards are still in charge of most state voting, and their “competence and equipment vary wildly,” Politico writes.

New machines could be problematic in states like Florida, but delays may also be an issue. “To me it's the possibility of the long lines that's the issue,” said Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

“Is America Ready to Vote?” indicates that the most prepared states overall for the 2008 election are Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Oregon. They all received marks of “generally good,” “good,” or “excellent” in most categories. The report gave ten states the worst general overall ratings: Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia. In at least three of the four categories, these states received ratings of “inadequate” or “needs improvement.”
The authors of the report also concede that the states cannot make major overhauls to their voting practices weeks before the election, and that many of their recommendations will have to wait until the next round of elections. However, “there are several crucial measures” that the states can take for the time being. For example, paper ballots must be available at polling places that use voting machines, and polling places should conduct audits “after the election but before final certification of election results.”

But the report is not simply meant for the eyes of state officials. It is also meant to be an important reference for the average citizen. The authors write: “if there are problems with machines registering and counting votes, thoroughly understanding these procedures should give concerned citizens, election observers and election officials a better understanding of what may have happened.”

Reference: More Voting Resources

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